July 2011 Update Bulletin

Posted in Feature on July 7, 2011

By Matt Tabak

Senior editor. Game designer. Writer. Bon vivant. Matt wears many hats inside Magic R&D, but they're hard to see as he's so tall.

Soon, the Magic 2012 Core Set will be upon us, bringing with it some beloved favorites from the past, some exciting new cards, and some new rules and template changes. In this installment of the Update Bulletin, we'll talk about "dies," unveil a "new" name for a popular play variant, and solve the puzzle that is the order of Island Fish Jasconius's abilities. Read on to join in on the fun.

Between the publication of this article and the posting of the Comprehensive Rules, all of the changes I mention here will go through a complete editing and review process. Even though I don't anticipate any changes, anything could happen. New Oracle wordings should be up in Gatherer already (or very soon), with the Comprehensive Rulebook update following shortly.

My work is made possible thanks to the players and judges out there who send in suggestions for cards and rules that may need tweaking. Communicating with me is fairly easy, should you be so inclined. Drop me a message on the forums (WotC_MattT), Twitter (@TabakRules), or just reply to this article. Oracle and rules updates always spur some fascinating discussion, and I really appreciate hearing from you guys. Let's get to it. Enjoy!

Functional Oracle Changes

What is Oracle?

Magic is a game made up of over 11,000 interchangeable pieces—the cards. Over the years, we've felt the need to update the wordings of older cards, whether because we've introduced a new keyword, or a card was printed with a mistake, or we have a clearer wording for what a card does, etc. Rather than sneak into your room at night and change your cards with a magic marker, we keep a database of the "modern wordings" (what the cards would say if we printed them today) of every tournament-legal card ever printed. These wordings are considered the official wordings of the cards, and accurately reflect their functions.

You can access a card's Oracle wording by looking it up in Gatherer.

Heartwood Dryad and Wall of Diffusion
These two Tempest cards were built to walk between worlds, able to block both creatures with shadow and those without. Time Spiral came along and brought us Ætherflame Wall and Æther Web, complete with a fancy new "as though" template. The two Tempest cards adopted this new template, and all was well.

Unfortunately, that introduced a small functional change to the two Tempest cards. If Ætherflame Wall gains shadow, it becomes unable to block any attacking creature. If the attacker has shadow, you treat it as though it doesn't, and now Ætherflame Wall can't block it (as it has shadow). If the attacker doesn't have shadow, Ætherflame Wall can't block it (yep, still has shadow). The same is true for any creature enchanted by Æther Web. This functionality was intended and explained in the Time Spiral FAQ.

But the Tempest cards shouldn't have been saddled with that drawback. The printed wording on each clearly states it's able to block creatures with shadow regardless of its own current shadowiness. So, we've altered their wordings to undo that change.

New Heartwood Dryad wording:
Heartwood Dryad can block creatures with shadow as though Heartwood Dryad had shadow.

New Wall of Diffusion wording:
Defender (This creature can't attack.)
Wall of Diffusion can block creatures with shadow as though Wall of Diffusion had shadow.

The printed card targets an opponent. Somewhere along the way, this fact was... Ignored? Forgotten? I don't know. But we're restoring it. Also, most cards that ask you to compare lands controlled used the format "if [someone] controls more [something] than you." Tithe went about this the other way, saying "if you control fewer lands than an opponent." Now it'll use the same template that cards like Land Tax and Knight of the White Orchid do.

New Tithe wording:
Search your library for a Plains card. If target opponent controls more lands than you, you may search your library for an additional Plains card. Reveal those cards and put them into your hand. Then shuffle your library.

Rally the Horde
This one isn't a functional change, per se, but it turns out this card may not have really, um... worked before. This card instructed you to exile the top three cards of your library and then look at the "last card exiled." But the three cards are exiled at the same time, so there isn't a "last card." There were several options to fix this, but this new wording did the best job of unambiguously pointing at the right card, even if there were two or fewer cards left in your library.

New Rally the Horde wording:
Exile the top card of your library. Exile the top card of your library. Exile the top card of your library. If the last card exiled isn't a land, repeat this process until the last card exiled is a land. Put a 1/1 red Warrior creature token onto the battlefield for each nonland card exiled this way.

Priest of Yawgmoth, Sacrifice, Soldevi Adnate, Viridian Joiner
These cards all add "an amount of" some color of mana to your mana pool. Early cards spelled it out using the color word. For example, Sacrifice's printed wording referred to "a number of black mana." More recently, Viridian Joiner was printed with a template that added "an amount of " to your mana pool.

In almost all cases, "black mana" and "" are equivalent. The one time they're not? When cards like Sleight of Mind are involved. We previously decided that under modern templating guidelines, we wouldn't allow the interaction between Sleight of Mind and descriptions of colored mana. But these four cards were kind of all over the map. Soldevi Adnate's Oracle wording even went the other way, using "black mana" even though it used the mana symbol as printed. We're going forward following Viridian Joiner's lead.

In addition, I rearranged some words so they all use similar templates.

New Priest of Yawgmoth wording:
{oT}, Sacrifice an artifact: Add to your mana pool an amount of {oB} equal to the sacrificed artifact's converted mana cost.

New Sacrifice wording:
As an additional cost to cast Sacrifice, sacrifice a creature.
Add to your mana pool an amount of {oB} equal to the sacrificed creature's converted mana cost.

New Soldevi Adnate wording:
{oT}, Sacrifice a black or artifact creature: Add to your mana pool an amount of {oB} equal to the sacrificed creature's converted mana cost.

New Viridian Joiner wording:
{oT}: Add to your mana pool an amount of {oG} equal to Viridian Joiner's power.

Nonfunctional Oracle Changes

As I mentioned in the last Update Bulletin, the Magic 2012 Core Set introduces the new term "dies." It means "is put into a graveyard from the battlefield" and is used only when referencing a creature. In total, 403 cards were updated.

Awakener Druid
The Forest-animating effect lasts "for as long as Awakener Druid is on the battlefield." Other cards use the phrase "remains on the battlefield" to describe this duration, so we're lining this one up.

New Awakener Druid wording:
When Awakener Druid enters the battlefield, target Forest becomes a 4/5 green Treefolk creature for as long as Awakener Druid remains on the battlefield. It's still a land.

Evaporate's previous template ("Evaporate deals 1 damage to each creature that's white or blue.") might be confusing when looking at a creature that is both white and blue. We feel Ember Gale did this better.

New Evaporate wording:
Evaporate deals 1 damage to each white and/or blue creature.

When referring to the owner(s) of multiple permanents, we tend to use the singular possessive (owner's) if it's most likely a single player will be the owner of all of them. We use the plural possessive (owners') if it's most likely to be multiple players. Neither is incorrect; it's just a style choice. Ghostway bucked the trend a bit, so we're bringing it back in line

New Ghostway wording:
Exile each creature you control. Return those cards to the battlefield under their owner's control at the beginning of the next end step.

Godo, Bandit Warlord
Godo used a quaint but nonstandard way to describe the addition of an additional combat phase. We're going to change it to the usual way of doing this.

New Godo, Bandit Warlord wording:
When Godo, Bandit Warlord enters the battlefield, you may search your library for an Equipment card and put it onto the battlefield. If you do, shuffle your library.
Whenever Godo attacks for the first time each turn, untap it and all Samurai you control. After this phase, there is an additional combat phase.

Higure, the Still Wind; Multani, Maro-Sorcerer; Rashka the Slayer
Rule 201.4c states that legendary creatures are always referred to using their complete names on first references. A shortened form may be used on second reference. For various reasons, these three cards deviated from that rule.

New Higure, the Still Wind wording:
Ninjutsu {o2oUoU} ({o2oUoU}, Return an unblocked attacker you control to hand: Put this card onto the battlefield from your hand tapped and attacking.)
Whenever Higure, the Still Wind deals combat damage to a player, you may search your library for a Ninja card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. If you do, shuffle your library.
{o2}: Target Ninja creature is unblockable this turn.

New Multani, Maro-Sorcerer wording:
Shroud (This permanent can't be the target of spells or abilities.)
Multani, Maro-Sorcerer's power and toughness are each equal to the total number of cards in all players' hands.

New Rashka the Slayer wording:
Reach (This creature can block creatures with flying.)
Whenever Rashka the Slayer blocks one or more black creatures, Rashka gets +1/+2 until end of turn.

Irini Sengir
Everyone's favorite Vampire Dwarf causes "white enchantment spells and green enchantment spells" to cost more to cast. The usual order for these colors is green and then white.

New Irini Sengir wording:
Green enchantment spells and white enchantment spells cost {o2} more to cast.

Island Fish Jasconius
I mentioned we'd be changing this card on Twitter and I received responses ranging from "Is it going to be an Island?" to "Are you bringing back islandhome?" to "Is it going to be a planeswalker?" Um, no. Just moving around its abilities so they appear in a more natural order. Not only might this make it easier to parse on Magic Online, but I'm fairly sure changing Island Fish Jasconius gets me Rules Manager Points or something.

New Island Fish Jasconius wording:
Island Fish Jasconius doesn't untap during your untap step.
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may pay {oUoUoU}. If you do, untap Island Fish Jasconius.
Island Fish Jasconius can't attack unless defending player controls an Island.
When you control no Islands, sacrifice Island Fish Jasconius.

As the old saying goes, you can't touch Island Fish Jasconius without touching Marjhan.

New Marjhan wording:
Marjhan doesn't untap during your untap step.
{oUoU}, Sacrifice a creature: Untap Marjhan. Activate this ability only during your upkeep.
Marjhan can't attack unless defending player controls an Island.
{oUoU}: Marjhan gets -1/-0 until end of turn and deals 1 damage to target attacking creature without flying.
When you control no Islands, sacrifice Marjhan.

Pyramids prevents a land from being destroyed by replacing it with removing all damage from it instead. We usually see this line in the reminder text of regeneration and totem armor. It's fine for reminder text, but for rules text we'd prefer the technically correct term "marked." Only Ogre Enforcer has used this term before, and I don't expect it'll show up on any printed cards, but it is appropriate here.

New Pyramids wording:
{o2}: Choose one — Destroy target Aura attached to a land; or the next time target land would be destroyed this turn, remove all damage marked on it instead.

Serpent Generator
This card had an unusual way of referring to a token creature it had just created in order to give it an ability. Other cards just use "it."

New Serpent Generator wording:
{o4}, {oT}: Put a 1/1 colorless Snake artifact creature token onto the battlefield. It has "Whenever this creature deals damage to a player, that player gets a poison counter." (A player with ten or more poison counters loses the game.)

Shade's Breath
Shade's Breath originally separated the color-changing and creature type-changing parts of its effect because the rules at the time would try to apply them together, causing some weird corner-case interactions. The current layer system allows us to combine them into a more natural wording without changing how the card works.

New Shade's Breath wording:
Until end of turn, each creature you control becomes a black Shade and gains "{oB}: This creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn."

Skyshroud Elf
The demon that reverses the order of colored mana symbols strikes again. Begone, foul villain!

New Skyshroud Elf wording:
{oT}: Add {oG} to your mana pool.
{o1}: Add {oR} or {oW} to your mana pool.

Titania's Song
Effects that cause something to lose all abilities usually say just that: "loses all abilities." Titania's Song caused each noncreature artifact to "lose its abilities." We'll just adjust a few notes and line those up.

New Titania's Song wording:
Each noncreature artifact loses all abilities and becomes an artifact creature with power and toughness each equal to its converted mana cost. If Titania's Song leaves the battlefield, this effect continues until end of turn.

Rise from the Grave and Skullclamp
These two cards were in Magic: The Gathering Commander decks, which inadvertently reversed their changes from February. Rise from the Grave now returns a card "from" the graveyard, and Skullclamp uses "whenever" once again.

This change came about when we were looking at the Magic 2012 "learn-to-play" insert that gets included in many of our products. It felt weird that the name of the variant, Planar Magic, didn't appear on the Planechase packaging at all. With Archenemy and Commander, the name of the format matched the name of the product, so we decided to do the same with Planechase. This change appears in many rules and cross-references.

Speaking of Planechase, Tember City's planar type never made it into the official list. Welcome to the Multiverse, Kinshala!

510.1c, 510.1d, 510.1e
These changes impact the way you assign combat damage when a creature blocks or is blocked by multiple creatures. Previously, you had to assign the combat damage of each creature fully before another creature's damage could be assigned. However, the rules also implied that you couldn't assign combat damage to a creature unless each creature before it in the damage assignment order was assigned lethal damage. But you could consider the combat damage assigned by other creatures in the same combat damage step. It was a strange paradox. It was further complicated by rule 510.1c's fourth example, which didn't follow that rule at all!

Now, the legality of any combat damage assignment is only checked after all combat damage is assigned. If anything is illegal, you back up and do it again. Perhaps an unrealistic, complicated example would be helpful.

Say you were attacking with a Necroskitter with a +1/+1 counter on it (so it's 2/4), a Runeclaw Bear (2/2), and a Canyon Minotaur (3/3). Your opponent controls two 5/5 creatures that can block any number of creatures. Each one of them blocks each attacking creature. Furthermore, you set the damage assignment order for each of your attackers the same way: first the cleverly named Blocker A, then Blocker B.

When you assign combat damage, you pick the Necroskitter to go first. You obviously want to get a -1/-1 counter onto each of the blockers, so you assign 1 damage to each of them. Previously, it wasn't clear that this was legal. Hopefully it now is! You then go on to assign all 3 damage from the Canyon Minotaur to Blocker A, and 1 damage to each blocker from the Runeclaw Bear. In total, A (first in line) has lethal damage assigned to it and B has 2 damage assigned to it. This is all legal, so you're good to go.

Put in layman's terms, assigning combat damage is "do what you want; we'll check it at the end."

Information saying "dies" would be coming with the Magic 2012 Core Set is now unnecessary. This language was also taken out of the "dies" glossary entry.

This rule dealt with cleaning up after a player leaves a multiplayer game. In order, all objects owned by that player leave the game, spells and abilities controlled by that player cease to exist, and effects which give the player control of any objects or players end. That middle part was intended to clean up objects not represented by cards: copies of spells, activated and triggered abilities, and the like. However, with Commandeer, it was possible for a player to control a spell on the stack represented by a card that didn't leave the game. The rules then want to make that card cease to exist. Making cards you don't own cease to exist is not generally considered sporting behavior, especially if you try to use fire or a hacksaw or something. Switching the order of the last two parts of this rule cleans it up.

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